IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s fourth loss in a row was its most humbling.
The Hawkeyes let Nebraska-Omaha achieve a first in program history Saturday when the Mavericks came into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and silenced a crowd announced at 11,618 with a tough-nosed 98-89 win.
UNO (4-4) has been a Division I team for only six years. It was previously 0-11 against Big Ten Conference competition.
The way the Hawkeyes lost was even more alarming. The Mavericks pushed Iowa’s bigger players all over their home court, claiming a 47-39 advantage in rebounds, putting up 40 points in the paint and shooting 48 percent from the field.
After, UNO coach Derrin Hansen, in his 12th season at the helm, tried to put the victory into perspective. His answer should provide little comfort to Hawkeye fans who have witnessed three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths and are hopeful of seeing this year’s young team make some waves in the rugged Big Ten.
“We won at Marquette a couple of years ago. We’ve won Division II tournament games, and we’ve won CIT games, and we’ve won games to get to the CBI,” Hansen said when asked to rank Saturday’s victory in program history. “So we’ve won good games. But on this floor and in this venue, it’s a top couple.”
Iowa (3-5) handed the Mavericks a feel-good moment by displaying the same softness on defense that has marked its season. UNO became the third consecutive team to score 92 or more points against the Hawkeyes.
That prompted Iowa coach Fran McCaffery to admit: “I don't know if I've ever coached a team that made 14 3s and lost by nine.”
Iowa was led by 33 points from senior guard Peter Jok. Freshmen Jordan Bohannon (20) and Cordell Pemsl (18) also helped carry the offensive load. No other Hawkeye scored more than five points. And only reserve forward Ahmad Wagner seemed to play with any fire in the paint or on the glass. He finished with eight rebounds (seven of them offensive), a block and two steals in 24 minutes.
Hansen thought it was his team’s rebounding that carried it to victory.
“I didn’t envision that,” he said. “I was hoping to be even. But to be up eight is the difference in the ballgame to our advantage.”
Where’s the bench?
Omaha outscored Iowa 37-9 off the bench. McCaffery seemed so dismayed by his reserve players other than Wagner that he kept Bohannon on the court for the entire second half.
He was asked if he saw anything he liked from any bench player besides Wagner. McCaffery paused for 30 seconds as he scanned the scoresheet. Finally, he raised his head and said: “No.”
Maishe Dailey, Brady Ellingson, Ryan Kriener, Dom Uhl and Christian Williams combined to score five points in 43 minutes of action. Uhl and Williams had been in the starting lineup for Iowa’s first six games. Neither played much after halftime.
“If you don't run back, you're coming out. That happened today. Put a guy in, he didn't run back, they tipped one in, you're out,” McCaffery said at the close of his postgame comments. “I don't need any attitude.”
But his team sure does.
Iron man Bohannon
Bohannon was averaging 22 minutes per game while coming off the bench in Iowa’s first six games. He played 32 minutes in Tuesday’s loss at Notre Dame and 35 Saturday. He scored 43 points in the two contests, with 13 3-pointers.
“I just thought he gave us the best chance to win, and I thought he earned it,” McCaffery said of Bohannon’s increased court time.
Bohannon, who starred at Linn-Mar, said he felt fresh and wasn’t surprised by a heavier workload.
“He’s been saying if I’m playing well he’s going to keep me in so I’ve just got to have the same mentality. If I’m playing well, I’ve just got to stay confident and believe there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be out there,” Bohannon said.
“I’ve been playing almost every minute my entire life.”
Wagner’s work unrewarded
Wagner controlled the boards in the second half, getting seven of his rebounds in 13 minutes. But he couldn’t turn them into points, making only 1 of 7 field goals while watching shot after shot rim out from close range.
“I felt bad for Ahmad because I thought his effort level was exactly what our team needed; he just didn't get any payback from it,” McCaffery said.
Wagner’s energy didn’t seem to translate to his teammates, but his determination to help the Hawkeyes turn things around was obvious. Iowa was even in rebounding (24-24) after halftime.
“Coach told me early this week I’ve got to get to the offensive glass. I’ve got to get us more shots,” Wagner said. “It’s just tough that I didn’t get any reward for me. That’s on me. I’ve got to focus more.”
Mavericks key on Baer
Forward Nicholas Baer scored Iowa’s first basket on a 3-pointer. He missed his next five shots and finished with four points, five rebounds, three assists, four blocked shots and a steal.
Hansen said that, after Jok, it was Baer who his team was most focused on stopping.
“He’s the guy that we said, ‘He makes winning plays for this basketball team. He’s the one that goes in and gets long rebounds and finishes. He’s the one that sets the flare screens for Jok that we’re not getting over,’” Hansen said of Baer. “We had to keep him off the glass.”
Iowa next hosts Stetson at 6 p.m. Monday.